It's a hard-knock life down at the harbour
Locals say the famous tourist destination in Hout Bay, Cape Town is going down the tubes
Gun battles, rampant theft and now a clampdown on overtime pay for staff at one of Cape Town’s top tourist destinations ... going to work is not much fun these days at Hout Bay harbour.
A directive from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) head office late last month put a temporary stop to all overtime work, including removal of refuse and managing the slipway.
Daff manages the harbour on behalf of the government but appears to be losing the battle against crime and vandalism at the popular weekend destination – home to the Hout Bay yacht club and marina and the embarkation point for ferry trips to Seal Island.
Boat operators say the latest financial squeeze could aggravate an already volatile situation.
Hout Bay’s harbour master warned ferry operators about the situation last week and even instructed them to stop paying for a private contractor to clean the public toilets over weekends.
“Please be informed that we won’t be working in the Harbour weekends due to financial constraints of the Department and an e-mail was sent to us [by Daff head office] on Tuesday to stop working overtime with immediate effect,” the harbour master said in an e-mail.Daff has yet to respond to Times Select queries about the memo, but ferry operators confirmed receiving it. It coincides with the successful salvage of at least a dozen wrecks lying in the harbour for years, a project driven by the Department of Public Works.
It is hoped the wreck removal will spur investment in the harbour precinct, which is in need of infrastructure and security upgrades.
The clampdown on overtime relates to moves within the National Treasury to cut government expenditure. Daff’s directive affects all internal divisions, with overtime identified as a possible area of cost-cutting – due partly to a large number of overtime claims. Some staff were claiming overtime of up to 60% of their normal salaries, a department source confirmed.
Daff reinstated overtime this week on condition it is properly managed, the source said. The decision is still being communicated to harbour users.
Riyaadh Kara, project manager at the Department of Public Works, confirmed the wreck salvage operation is almost complete – a possible first step in much-needed harbour rejuvenation.
But crime continues to spiral out of control, harbour stakeholders say. Several boat owners expressed frustration at theft and vandalism despite Daff’s assurances of improved security.A video clip taken by one boat owner showed a gun battle between harbour officials and poachers from the nearby settlement of Hangberg – in full view of tourists. Officials were reportedly in the process of confiscating a poachers’ boat when poachers retaliated from the quayside by throwing rocks. Officials responded with gunfire.
“It is getting much worse – they came with a gun,” said one boat owner, who had fishing equipment worth R55,000 stolen off his boat last week.
Another boat owner said items stolen off his vessel last week included flares from his safety dinghy. Flares have been used to fire at police during community protests, but they are also needed to acquire vessel safety certification.
“Imagine not collecting rubbish over weekends when all the tourists are here. What will they think?” said another local businessman, who believes harbour mismanagement has already caused a drop in turnover.
Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for tourism and economic opportunities, said it was important for tourist sites to be kept at world-class standards.
“Tourism is a major contributor to the Hout Bay community, with the harbour being a major focal point of activity,” Winde told Times Select.
“I’d like to call on the Department of Forestry and Fisheries, whose mandate it is to look after small harbours, to ensure these sites are well maintained so that they can play a positive role in generating jobs and growth in our communities.”